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Wylder Bride Paperback

Wylder Bride Paperback

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Victiorian romance set in fictional Wylder Wyoming.

Main Tropes

  • Cyrano de Bergerac retelling
  • runaway bride
  • pen pals
  • Lead and BPA-free
  • Exclusive design


He wrote the right letters. Too bad he was the wrong guy.

Maisie Brinley rejected every bachelor in the Boston elite put forth by her social-climbing mother. Then Mother issues an ultimatum to marry a family friend—but he's twice Maisie's age. After corresponding with a stranger whose letters connect with her heart, Maisie crosses the
continent for his love. When they meet, will he live up to her
expectations, or will her escape be in vain?

Living in Wylder, Wyoming Territory—where men outnumber women ten to one—gunsmith Cyrus Haddock hides his disfigured face to avoid romantic rejection. Out of
pity, he helps a friend woo a woman through letter writing. But his
success backfires when Cyrus falls in love with the Easterner's words.

When they meet, will Cyrus hide his feelings or confess his love?

Chapter 1

Chapter 1
Boston, 1879

Maisie Brinley refused to descend the stairs for dinner. Her mother invited the stuffy, self-absorbed, yet wealthy, Ralph Pope to dine tonight. They hadn't invited him to discuss the politics of moving to the gold standard, either. No, this dinner party would end in a marriage proposal.
Perhaps he would arrive tonight on his newly acquired bicycle all the way from the financial district, rebuilt nearly seven years ago after the fire of 1872. When she last saw him at the Boston Common earlier in the spring, he looked so silly balanced upon the two-wheeled contraption.
Tying a knot in her sheets, Maisie stifled a laugh against her hand. Leaning out the third floor window to view the other stately brick mansions with mansard roofs along the South Slope of Beacon Hill, she dropped the lengthy rope ladder made from her tightly woven bed sheets to the brick streets below. How would she manage the climb in her skirts? Thankfully, her kid leather boots were sturdy.
"What are ye doing there?" Cara O'Donnell asked from behind.
Maisie glanced over her shoulder. “I'm running away." She wanted trees and wilderness, not people and houses.
"And just where do ye think ye'll go this time?" Cara brushed back a strand of red hair and tucked it into her cap. Thrusting her chin into the air, she planted a fist on her thin hip. "Ye have no place to go. Ye'll just be dragged home by Constable Higgins again. Now get away from the window before ye fall and break yer neck, and then what would yer mother do with ye?" She snagged the bedsheets and pulled them from the window, untying the knots and shaking her head. "Bless me, Miss Maisie, if ye aren't a handful of trouble. Now I have to rewash the linens."
Along with her Irish brogue, Cara's grin always brought a smile to Maisie's own lips. Only two years separated them. Maisie never gloated over her superiority in her age or station. She narrowed her eyes. "I could still climb down the drainpipe and run off." Ever since they were installed, the thought tempted her. "But then I would miss you, my dear friend.” She sighed. “Don't worry. I'll help you wash the bedding. It's my fault they're all soiled." Cara was right. She had no place to go.
"Bah, ye know yer mother wouldn't permit ye doing the wash. Besides, ye don't know how!" Done with separating the sheets, Cara set to work remaking the bed with fresh linens. "Now, come away from the window and dress for dinner. Ye must dine with Mr. Pope tonight, miss. He's a very good match."
"You sound like my mother." Frowning, Maisie straightened the hem of her tailored, drop-waist cuirass bodice and studied the pink damask wall coverings surrounding the open window. Horses' hooves clapped on the cobblestone and brick streets below. Bells rang from their harnesses. A breath of chilled smoke from the neighboring stacks invigorated her. "Perhaps he's a match for some other stuffy, straight-laced debutante but not me." She couldn't imagine having a blissful home full of laughter, love, and warmth with him. The only thing underneath Ralph's ribs was a bank account.
"And I might add, he's one of the last bachelors in all New England whom ye haven't snubbed." Shaking a finger, Cara pitched her eyebrows.
True. Maisie had a tongue in her head and a brain that powered it--much to her mother's disapproval. Cara was right. Maisie sent more than her fair share of suitors running with a few short words. Her mother must be getting desperate if she considered Ralph Pope--someone whose mother wasn't part of the Boston elite. What horrors! Maisie rolled her eyes at her mother's snobbery. "I suppose I must at least eat."
"There's a good girl." Cara finished folding the sheets. "Now come and get dressed."
Moving away from the open window, Maisie removed her arms from the oppressive long sleeves. Even in chilly early May, her clothing suffocated her. In fact, everything about Boston suffocated her.
Cara removed the day bodice and laid it on the four-poster bed. She slid the evening bodice with shorter sleeves over the corset. "You'll look beautiful in this bodice, miss. I'm sure the honorable Mr. Pope will be taken with you."
"That is precisely what I wish to avoid." Maisie slid her hands through the delicately stitched sleeve hole and adjusted the lace around her bertha collar.
"Don't ye want to get married?" At the foot of the bed, Cara tugged at the spiral lacings up the back of the dark purple silk faille.
Maisie stood in front of the wardrobe. ”Of course I do. Just not to any of the men my parents want for me. I want a real man--one with gumption, grit, and passion." She ran her hands down the front drape of her dress, grateful she didn't have to change her skirts for dinner. Getting in and out of the bustle, the crinoline, and the bum pad took no small amount of work for the both of them. "What happened in the last one hundred years that turned all the Boston men--the firebrands of the Revolution--into wet, wool socks?”
"What do ye think?" Cara turned her toward the looking glass embedded in the wardrobe.
The dress was no Worth gown, but Maisie had to admit the image pleased her.
A knock sounded on the door behind her.
"Yes?" Maisie turned to see who entered.
Mother bustled into the room with the rustle of silk. Her evening dress was the picture of a Boston socialite. White lace gathered around her shoulders. Her silhouette formed an hourglass with the help of yards of skirt fabric bunched and draped around the skirt. Silk flowers dotted the gown. "You look beautiful, Margaret. The dark violet compliments your complexion and dark hair perfectly." She stopped in front of the mirror to smooth her dress and soothe her fading dark locks into place on top of her head.
"Thank you." Maisie wrinkled her nose at her use of her Christian name. No one but her mother called her Margaret. Even Cara called her Miss Maisie. Sometimes Maisie felt like Grandpa's Revolutionary muzzle-loader hanging over the mantle in the dining room, beautiful but useless--decoration only. Since her coming out at sixteen, she’d done little more than be a glass-headed doll for Mother to parade about.
"Good heavens!" Mother crossed the room in a flurry of lavender scent. "Who left the window open?" She shut the sashes, drowning out the sound of the street below. "I hate the dust and the noise. Really, Margaret, you shouldn't keep the windows open." Mother’s forehead creased with wrinkles.
Maisie rolled her eyes. Her mother loved to worry. She worried about getting trampled by horses, or getting her skirts caught in the wheels of her carriage, or whether novels would spoil Maisie's brain, or if she'd catch pneumonia or measles--the latter was perhaps because Maisie's baby sister died of the disease. Mother always kept a lock of the baby's hair in her locket around her throat. Her primary concern was to marry off Maisie to someone worthy of her station.
Her mother clutched a scented hanky to her chest. "Please remember to be civil tonight." The crease marred her brow again. "We are running out of eligible bachelors. Now, Ralph just returned from London so he doesn't know about all your other flaws yet. If we can secure an engagement—"
"My flaws?” Maisie’s throat tightened. Mother used her charm to win allies to her causes but reserved little tact for their conversations.
"He hasn't heard the gossip." Clutching the pearls at her neck, Mother raised her eyes to the ceiling. "Oh, Margaret, if only you knew how important your reputation was, you'd guard it more closely."
A fire stoked in Maisie's heart. Heat burned her cheeks. "If you're referring to the termination of my engagement with Harold Peabody—" Jewels adorned the fake hair pieces in her mother's hair. She meant business tonight.
“I don’t want to hear about it.” Mother brushed back faded, pewter hair which had fallen loose from her pompadour and tugged on Maisie's bodice. "I know you had your reasons for ending it, but to be known as a jilting Jessy! You’ve made men skittish. They want a woman they can trust."
Maisie crossed her arms. That was not what Harold Peabody wanted.
"What I'm trying to say is, Ralph might be our last hope for marrying anyone suitable. You're twenty-six, Margaret, and you're not getting any younger."

Emotion built in her chest. Maisie dropped her jaw. Her mother talked about her as if she were milk curdling in the sun. True, all the young ladies from finishing school were married, and most even had children of their own. Maisie was the last of her circle of friends to marry. She didn’t need it rubbed in her face.
Cara quietly bowed and backed from the scene.
Narrowing her eyes, Maisie faced her mother. She thrust out her jaw. "I just want a man who is a real man, not a banker, not a business man, but one who stands straight and tall because he hasn't cheated the world to climb to where he is. I want someone who works hard with his hands, who creates beauty, and who understands craft. I doubt I will find those in Ralph."
Mother tucked in her lips. Tears formed in the corners of her eyes. "If this doesn't end in a proposal, Margaret, I don't know where else to turn."
Maisie faced the glass again, plucking at her lace collar. "Turn to God." Perhaps she meant it a little flippantly, or perhaps not. God was always her friend as long as he allowed her to do what she wanted.
Mother raised a single brow. "Perhaps I shall."
Maisie picked up the latest print edition of the newspaper. "I want to do something heroic or make a new discovery. Did you hear they found a geyser out west that erupts at the same time every day? Amazing, isn't it? I read about it in the Boston Courier. Or here is a man who foiled a bank robbing. How exciting to get your name in the paper for doing something so heroic."
Her mother furrowed her eyebrows. She pinched her lips together. “Shameful. You should only be mentioned in the newspaper when you are born, when you are married—soon hopefully—and when you die, which will be sooner than you think if you do not make yourself pleasing to Mr. Pope."
Her mother's straight mouth and serious tone sobered Maisie. "I will try to be nice to Mr. Pope, but if he brings up his bicycle, I will laugh."
Lifting her chin, Mrs. Brinley puffed out her chest. "I mean it, Margaret. This is your last chance before I am forced to take drastic measures. Behave tonight at dinner--or else!" Her mother slammed the door behind her.
Maisie lifted the papers again with a burdened heart. People were so free out west—no bankers, no expectations, and no Mr. Pope. She just had to figure out how to get there.
Bent over his forge, Cyrus Haddock rotated to the slack tub and quenched the purple steel. Steam rose from the limed water. Near him, the coal forge burned bright orange amid the damp, pea-sized coke built up around the heart of the flame. A huge chimney swept the smoke up into the sky. The mid-morning sun created a patchwork of yellow on the dirt floors of his shop.
Though snow still hid in the shadows outside in the chilly, late Wyoming spring in Wylder, sweat poured off his brow. Cyrus focused on tempering his steel. He loved to tune out everything and focus on creating. Today he repaired an action for a revolver. Often, he lost himself in his own thoughts and relived the battle scenes of his youth in the War Between the States.
He wiped the sweat from his scarred brow. Even after sixteen years, he swore the rippled part of his face still felt more sensitive to heat.
All alone, he sunk deep into his thoughts while he allowed the steel to cool. At his bench, he picked up the action of the revolver he replaced after the firing pin broke. Although he loved repairing broken guns, creating them satisfied him more. Organizing raw materials and making something never before seen, never before created—a unique piece—was what he lived for. Pearlized grips, carving wood and antlers into hunting scenes, or mere decorative designs were his specialty. He loved silver handles for their sheer beauty. The racks at the front of his shop displayed rows of his work. Each one was unique. Each one was a piece of art.
"You the gunsmith?"
The voice broke his concentration. He lowered the steel. The six men must've entered while he focused on the detail of his work. "That's what the sign says over the door." Keeping the scarred side of his face away from the visitors, he wiped his hands and tucked his polishing cloth into his leather apron. "How can I help you gentlemen?"
He used the term "gentleman" broadly. These men looked like seedy ranch hands from a ranch up north--illiterate, uncouth, lazy, and brash. Their teeth were yellow. Their hair hung in greasy ropes near the edges of their unshaven jaws. Their clothes looked slept in and unwashed. Even over the smoke of the coal forge, he smelled their unseemly body odor—a familiar odor.
The foremost among them cocked his head.
"Gambell?" Cyrus blinked in the dim light of the shop. A flash of heat hit his chest. The last time he'd seen Private Gambell was on the battlefield. "You deserted the Northern Army. I had orders to shoot you on sight."
Gambell split open his mouth in a wide, toothy, and insincere grin. Cyrus shuddered.
Gambell spit in the dirt floor. ”I thought I recognized you. You called me a coward once."
"Only once? I couldn't sworn I said it at least a dozen times." Cyrus narrowed his eyes to get a good look at Gambell's friends. They looked like the type of men who frequented the social clubs and saloons more than the respectable places in town. "What are you doing here?"
One slouched, tucking his hands into the pockets of his leather vest.
Another possessed the greasiest hair. From his dusty bowler hat to his too-tight jacket to his unpolished boots, he shone with an oil sheen.
Gambell whisked back his shoulder-length, straw-colored hair. "We're looking for six-shooters."
Cyrus shot his gaze to the third friend who talked too loud.
"Word on the street is that you make the most accurate guns."
This one tapped his foot incessantly on the dirt floor and thrummed his fingers on his worn chaps. He reminded Cyrus of a coil wound too tight. With the slightest flick, he would jump into action.
Cyrus, unmoved by the possible sincere flattery, refocused on situating the firing pin into the action. His rifles earned legendary status in Wyoming Territory. "I'm afraid my guns are not for the likes of you." He arched his unscarred brow. They'd probably use them for nefarious purposes.
Gambell shook his head. "I'm offering whatever price you ask for your rods."
Tilting his head a little toward him, Cyrus stared with his good eye. "I'm sorry. You can get a 'rod' in Cheyenne. I'm sure some sucker there would love to take your money. I create art, not rods."
His face contorted. "You must be some kind of stupid."
"Yes, I suppose I am." He sighed and fingered his hammer. He yearned to return to work.
The round-faced ranch hand held out a stack of greenbacks.
An intense aroma surrounded him. Cyrus coughed to blow away the stink.
"Backed by gold, brother."
Again, Cyrus shook his head.
"You just greedy?" Talks-Too-Loud shook his head.
"Of the greatest sorts. Greed for a reputation of goodness and quality. Now if you'll allow me, I'll return to my work." Sitting at his bench, he searched for a scrap of paper. He had an idea for a pastoral scene he wanted to sketch before squelching the forge for the night. He preferred to return to his little homestead before sunset. Although, on occasion, he often worked late in his shop and slept under his bench. No one waited for him at his lonely house. Those three acres seemed like miles of solitude.
"You're a foolhardy man." Gambell stepped in his direction.
"Again, I agree with you." Although he focused on his workbench, Cyrus watched him from the corner of his eye. He hoped they’d give up and go away. He arranged his tools on the wood.
A man with a red beard stepped from the back. "If you won't give them to us, we'll take them by force."
"You can try." Cyrus remained seated. He didn't even arch a brow at their threats.
"You can't stand against six men." Talks-Too-Loud's whole body shook.
Placing his tools on the bench, Cyrus sighed. His patience ran out. Standing, he faced the men. "Kindly leave my establishment."
The men stepped back.
"What's wrong with his face?" asked the smelly one with dark, stringy hair and a mustache standing in the back--Stinky.
Red-Beard spit tobacco juice into the dirt floor. "Did a cow step on your face when you was born?"
A chuckle rose from the men.
Greasy sneered. "Or did a wolf mangle your face?"
Inhaling, Cyrus slid his hand around a revolver sitting on the bench. "You shouldn't have asked that."
The ranch hands drew their sidearms.
Calmly, Cyrus aimed and one by one shot each gun out of their hands without so much as nicking their fingers with a bullet.
Talks-Too-Loud dropped his jaw and pounced on his gun.
Narrowing his eyes, Red Beard swore.
Greasy licked his lips.
Slouchy just bent to pick it up, real slow, with his gaze still on Cyrus.
In the blink of his eye, Cyrus reloaded and shot the dirt floor near the tips of Slouchy's fingers. In the fastest move he’d made since he entered the shop, Slouchy stood straight.
Shaking his head, Gambell bent to retrieve his gun.
Again, Cyrus let out a warning shot near Gambell's hand. "See how this goes? You retrieve your guns, and I'll shoot. I've got enough ammo here to do this all day." He pointed to the cartridges stacked on the window sill above his bench.
Gambell spit on the dirt floor. "Get him."
Red Beard, Greasy, and Talks-Too-Loud circled Cyrus.
At close range, he worried about wounding them. Cyrus didn't want to kill the men--just teach them a lesson. He stepped back along the bench. Tossing the revolver along his four-hundred pound mill, Cyrus reached for his two-pound hammer. He walloped Red Beard in the stomach.
He doubled over and stumbled out the door.
Greasy grabbed him from behind.
Cyrus head-butted him in the face then jabbed him in the stomach with the hammer.
Greasy landed face first into the smoldering fire. "Ahhhh!" Grasping his face, he raced out the door with soot covering his shoulders, his collar on fire.
The four men left circled Cyrus. Gambell spit through his yellow teeth. "You should've just given us what we asked for."
Cyrus shook his head. "I see no need to acquiesce to mob mentality."
All at once they rushed him.
With brute strength, Cyrus knocked Gambell in the jaw with the hammer. He hit Slouchy on the right shoulder, and Stinky and Talks-Too-Loud he hit, along their left sides like he was swinging a club.
Gambell spit out two teeth. He swiped his mouth. "You haven't seen the end of this." Blood dribbling from his mouth, he and his companions stumbled out the door.
Cyrus raised the hammer in a sword salute to the now-empty shop. No doubt those ruffians would be back. He sighed. Drat. Now he'd have to install iron bars over the windows.

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